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4.6 out of 5 stars
The Sewing Circles of Herat: My Afghan Years
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on 15 October 2004
Not that many books move me, but this one did. I didn't know anything about Afghanistan apart from what's on the news and this book provided the best inside narrative I could've hoped for. The author was great. She reported everything equally and did not play for any shock factors, messages - it was great to read something from a journalist. It's inspired me to hope that one day I'll get to visit the country and meet it's people.
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on 25 January 2008
Why did Ms Lamb's editor allow her to choose this title! I suppose I feel a bit of a cheat because I only paid 50p for it from a local library sale, and then on a second visit, having bypassed this book the first time around because of its title. What on earth would I, a bloke, want to be reading a book about sewing circles in Herat written by someone called Christina Lamb? Well, at 50p a shot, why not? It was one of those "most important decisions I ever made" moments because it's the best book I have EVER read about this war-ravaged country and its people. Probably one of the most important books ever WRITTEN about the place. It should be compulsory reading for everyone sent to serve there in the military, and every leader of every country with a military presence there (and those who refuse to send troops) should be made to read it from cover to cover, because "about sewing circles in Herat" it ain't about. Now how on earth do we get this message out?
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on 25 April 2005
The Sewing Circles of Herat helps to bring today's Afghanistan into a clearer perspective. Christina Lamb lets the reader better see the faces and hearts of many who have been, to most westerners, simply names mentioned when Afghanistan was bigger TV pull. Lamb brings to light, through sharing her own experience, the personal and political struggle of the people of Afghanistan. Through her, the reader is able to get closer to the individual stories of strength and sorrow. She introduces warlords and foot soldiers, and through her they become real people. It is too easy to sit back and watch the newscasts, to turn them off and forget. In knowing more about the people involved, it is harder to forget.
Lamb does not tell an entertaining tale. She reports her own fascinating experience, and she reports it well. She gives the reader the details. She shares her deep love for a people, culture and county, and through her writing she allows the reader to share some of the sadness and joy with her. Above all the reader learns, of history, heroism, bravery, and caring. Lamb helps the reader see the landscape of Afghanistan in years past and now. And the reader, through Lamb, mourns the loss of what was Afghanistan, and hopes for what its people might have in the future.
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on 30 December 2002
This is a fantastic and very readable book that I devoured in almost 1 sitting.
Christina clearly loves the country and its people and is very knowledgeable about historical factors that have lead to the current situation in Afghanistan. But most of all the book brings the people behind the beards to life. The personal suffering and real horror of the past 27 years is played out of every page but set in the backdrop of thousands of years of history and culture and written so well that it is hard not to turn the next page.
This is a must read book and the best I have read this year.
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on 11 May 2004
This book is in turns uplifting and heartbreaking. Christina Lamb conveys perfectly the sense of loss and despair of the people of Afghanistan. For 600 years,this beautiful country was at the forefront of culture and the arts. Over the last twenty-odd years of war, this culture has been systematically and senselessly destroyed, first by the Russians and then the Taliban. It was wonderful to see that even during the darkest hours of the most claustrophobic regime of the Taliban, the brave people of Herat rebelled, knowing that if they had been found out, it would have resulting in a serious beating - or worse. Brilliant!
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on 9 January 2004
The author of the book, Christina Lamb, has visited Afghanistan extensively as a foreign correspondent. She was first there during the Soviet occupation, and this book covers experiences she's had from that time up to the present day. Christina Lamb doesn't focus on any one aspect of her visits, but describes the people she met, the places she saw, history and local politics with equal enthusiasm. She has done remarkable things, such as befriending Hamid Karzai, getting cornered by Russian tanks and visiting the madrassa that produced most of the Taliban leadership.
This book gives the reader a fascinating glimpse of life in the country that has been the subject of news stories for decades. You get to tag along as the writer recounts her visits, branching off into handy titbits of history or local politics to explain why the people act the way they do. Reading it is a roller-coaster ride as it calls up almost every emotion: sadness, despair, hope, compassion, even raising the occasional smile. I found the book enlightening, especially about the history and the differences between all the local tribes. It gave me a view of how that all fit together to form the present situation in Afghanistan.
Ms Lamb's writing style is easy to read and combined with the subject matter it makes for a cracking great read. I don't think you even need to have any specific knowledge of or interest in Afghanistan to choose it.
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on 17 January 2011
Fascinating, and at the same time hard to read book about the authors visits to Afghanistan, first when the country was still under Russian occupation and later after the fall of the Taliban.

Christina Lamb first visited Afghanistan in 1988 as a young reporter, hitching a ride with some mujaheddin fighters, who were fighting a guerrilla war against the Russians who had invaded the country. She gained insight into the life of the mujaheddin fighters, many of who later joined the Taliban.
In 2001, Christina returned to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. As a journalist she talks to many people about the time the Taliban had a iron grip on the country, during which, among many other things, kite flying, reading books and going to school was forbidden.
She meets up with men and women who on risk of being executed, defied the Taliban and set up secret societies, who continued to educated people, specifically women.

This book is a travel book in so far that the story follows the authors on her travels through Afghanistan, first in the 1980s and later in 2001. Christina describes what she sees around her in great detail and relates the conversations she had with people, many of who have horrible stories to tell. Where necessary she gives historical information that ties in nicely with the rest.

This is not an easy read as it tells a tale of much suffering and hardship. I would however, recommend this book to anyone who wants to get an insight into what happened to Afghanistan and its people in the last 30 years.
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on 3 September 2008
In these memoirs the author writes about her experiences in Afghanistan, a country with which she has come to care deeply about and to explore intimately.
She details her experiences with people she has interviewed and come to know in Afghanistan and what she has come to witness in her years there.
Through the book she shapes a history of Afghnanistan, a rich land of many nations which has been invaded by many from the armies of Alexander the Great, the Persians and Mongols, the British and Russians/Soviets and most recently the Arab and Pakistani Islamists.
We learn that most of the Taliban were not Afghans at all but Arabs and Pakistani Islamo-Nazis barging into a county were they found it easy to wage their nihilist jihad and foist Islamo-Nazism on a hapless population.
The author explores the totalitarian and insane laws forced on the people by the Taliban in Afghanistan during the Taliban reign of terror, there, such as forcing women to be covered by a burka, to be not allowed out unless accompanied by a male relative, any woman who had her nails painted was to have her fingers cut off, and any woman who showed her ankles was to be whipped.

Music was banned, laughing in public was baned, chess was banned, card were banned, flying kites were banned, keeping any pets including birds was banned.

Of course the people of Afghanistan welcomed the American liberation of that country from the Taliban hell, even if Islamic jihadis and left wing fanatics around the world did not.
The people of Afghanistan wanted to be free, even if the likes of Noam Chomsky and the Satanic Stalinist Workers World Party in America or George Galloway's 'Respect' did not.

The author highlights memoirs of the holocaust perpetrated by the Soviets on the Afghan people, Isn't it ironic that the same Communist rabble around the world that supported Soviet atrocities in Afghanistan should be the same ones who loudly join in the hyena chorus against the USA for liberating Afghanistan from Taliban terror.
And why are radical feminists in the West so silent about atrocities against women in Islamic states, by the same Islamists these Western radicals are so quick to champion.

We also learn how the Afghans yearned for the peace and claim of the reign of the enlightened King Zahir Shah before 1973.
Zahir Shah had spilled no blood and allowed a peaceful and enlightened country to flourish in which women enjoyed full rights.
Afghanistan was plunged into the hell of the Soviet holocaust and then Islamist tyranny from 1978 when the Communists were foisted by the Soviets like a bacillus onto Afghanistan.

A very colourful, highly readable and exciting window into the tragedy of Afghanistan and it's liberation.
It was beautiful to read of the freedom enjoyed by women and girls after the Taliban were forced to flee.
Young women could wear lipstick and trousers and enjoy a full range of freedoms under the presidency of Hamid Karzai.
But still that country struggles under the terror of Islamist terrorism and the fear that the Taliban and Al Qaeda may regain control and reinstall their regime of terror.
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on 15 May 2011
I very much enjoyed Christina Lamb's "The Sewing Circles of Herat" It is a great account of the modern history of Afghanistan and it takes the reader through some harrowing stories of life there during the occupation by Russia, and then the Taliban. Great historical interest, also human interest, I'm thinking of the account where she relates the destruction but also the saving of paintings and works of art, Afghanistan's culture, much of which was destroyed by the Taliban.
I enjoyed the reference to "unpainting the Peacocks" where an artist had had the chance to paint over in water colour dozens of paintings depicting people and animals, and in this way had saved them from destruction. Now Christina found the artist carefully washing off the water colour and thereby restoring the paintings.
I also thought that the author brought out the beauty of Afghanistan during the peaceful times..... she quotes the impressions that Alexander Burnes wrote about during his first visit to Kabul in 1832, and where he likened Kabul to a Paradise full of delightful fruit trees like Peach, Plum, Apricots, Pears, Apples, Cherries, etc... and singing birds in every tree.
Despite all the hardship the Afghans have had to suffer, described so well by Christina,it is good to read the words of Mr Masoodi, director of Kabul Museum, after showing Christina around the destroyed works of art, and also mentioning how many people had been lost in the recent years, he said. I quote "Every family in Afghanistan has lost people and yet we're still optimistic. My brother who was strong and handsome was injured in a rocket attack and paralysed. That's just a small example. Maybe we have lost our past but it's the future that matters now."
I enjoyed the book very much and learned a lot.
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on 6 March 2005
I have never wanted to go to Afghanistan, mostly because of the bad press we in 'THE WEST' have had, but this book has changed my mind. We see both the bad and the good and still I want to see more. I cried and I laughed. Christina Lamb was so extraordinarily brave, that I wish I had had the courage to do what she did when I was in my early twenties. How sad that the culture and history of this vibrant country has been all but destroyed by misunderstood ideology and illiteracy!
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